Regional Digital Academy on Social Protection Response to the COVID- 19 Pandemic Developing Trade Union Strategies and Policies

Keywords : THE TRADE UNION BATTLE AGAINST COVID-19 Technical document Extending Social Protection Reports

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a significant wake-up call alerting the global community to the urgency of accelerating progress in building effective and inclusive social protection systems.

Social protection measures are an indispensable part of any coordinated policy response, ensuring that all working people can effectively access health care and income security, thereby supporting jobs, livelihoods and incomes, notably among those workers who too often find themselves in vulnerable employment situations.

Responding to the needs of Workers’ Organisation, the Africa Region Workers’ Digital Academy on "Social protection responses to the COVID-19 crisis - Trade union strategies and policies", was implemented as a collaborative effort between the ITUC-Africa and ACTRAV Turin.

The training took place over a period of five weeks, from the 22nd of March to 23rd of April 2021, using the ITCILO dedicated e-campus learning platform. The objective of the course was to contribute to enhancing workers’ organizations’ understanding of the potential of social protection in addressing the social, economic and health challenges faced by workers and their families due to the impact of COVID-19.

The course attracted a total of 266 participants (121 females [45%] and 143 males [55%], from 29 French and English speaking African countries. The training course consisted of five interconnected modules developed around carefully identified development objectives and learning aims specific to each module.

Feedback from participants indicated that the new look and structure of the E- Campus platform offered a more user-friend outlook for both former and new participants, though a few former participants needed to re-adjust to the new outlook. Thus, some participants needed a little ‘hand-holding’ to enable them to crossover and to navigate the new platform successfully. “In the event that you get lost or cannot find your way on the E-campus. Please relax, we are here to make your learning excursion so smooth while at the same time exciting and enriching,” notes Ms. Inviolata Chinyangarara (the Activity Manager)

Feedback from participants indicated that the impact of the online courses to individual participants was very positive. “This is the first time that I take part in a training course and it was with real pleasure that I went to the end of it. The beginnings were difficult, but we ended up adjusting our work schedule with that of the lessons. What a great outpouring of solidarity between Comrades who were totally unknown a few weeks ago. All this was done with real pleasure and I will not hesitate to start again” says Christine Mireille Kandim, union leader from Cameron.

“After a month of tireless training and a lot of knowledge acquired, without forgetting the experiences received: I come to thank all those who have directly or indirectly contributed to the holding and success of this training. Thank you for listening to me and guiding me,” says Aïssatou Billy Diallo, union national executive member from Guinea.

Aliu Adebukola Temmy, union member from Nigeria notes, “Having participated in this training from the first week through to the last, I must say that I have gained immensely and I intend to leverage on the knowledge gained.”

“The training has meet my expectations and gone beyond what I thought I would gain in terms of knowledge. The unique techniques used and the expertise of presentations by various presenters throughout the training sessions and careful selection of reading materials like handouts, documents, videos and slides to support the training is impressive.” says Asamao Biye, Senior administrative officer from Cameron.

Marie-Thérèse Galo, trade union member from Cote D’Ivoire notes that “I think that we will have to maintain the networking between us, this will allow us not only to continue to exchange, to share more certainly to achieve certain objectives.”

Malekena Maryanna Ntsiki, trade union officer from Lesotho notes, “I have read the documents provided and they are very good and provided lot of information. After the training, I am going to share this knowledge with my colleagues to make sure that they all understand the importance of Social Security.”

“The training was very informative; one of my expectations was to really see how social protection works and how it is a tool in responding to COVID-19 and bouncing back stronger, I would say the facilitators were very much on point. The documents, slides, videos and handouts used for information sharing was just awesome,” says Eustace Tafadzwa Chidhindi, IndustriAll Zimbabwe Young Workers chairperson.

Ayabavi Aubierge Glonou Agbozognigbe, a member of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Benin (CSA-Benin), says “I had the chance to follow the Training on social protection responses to the Covid-19 crisis: union strategies and policies. I would like to thank you for your availability throughout this training. I learnt that social protection for all can be a reality in our countries thanks to our actions.”

The following factors were noted to be some of the key contributors to the successful delivery of the training activity:

(i) An interactive methodology aided learning by making connections to personal and national experiences and concepts;

(ii) Timely provision of technical assistance by the ACTRAV Turin Team, especially during the first weeks of the course, as some participants encountered difficulties in logging in and / or posting on the forum;

(iii) The mixed pedagogical methodology provided a learning diversity in the delivery of the training, removed monotony given the length of the course. For example, there was use of videos, reading material and strategy development, workshop work during the webinar. All this made the learning process enjoyable, richer and created bonds between the participants;

(iv) Practical aspect of the course on trade union work and the world of work in general; and,

(v) Ability to express the ideas of the participants.

Since the training activity was implemented during the Global Pandemic, the challenges encountered included, but not limited to:

(i) Late submission of weekly assignments by some participants;

(ii) Low level of interactions on individual work by some participants; and

(iii) Some participants made omissions in certain works or did not correctly use the concepts of material before making up for it following interpellations to check that the activities are complete. To address these challenges, the tutors followed-up on participants (through emails and messages on WhatsApp) and offered support as and when needed.

The ITCILO also offered a flexible approach to course duration and module submission deadlines in order to enable participants to complete all tasks despite them having to balance demanding personal and professional workloads.

The training team played a significant role in guiding, motivating and inspiring the participants to work with the content in a virtual technology driven classroom.

Appreciating the collaboration between ITUC-Africa and ACTRAV Turin Programme in the delivery of this training, in his closing remarks during the final course webinar Brother Eric Manzi- ITUC-Africa Deputy General Secretary says ” I was impressed by the quality of the training, the materials and also the high level engagement by participants. I was most captivated by the commitment and militancy of the participants and tutors in undertaking the course- all this despite the pandemic and the challenges it presented to workers’ education and training.”

The remark made by Brother Manzi validated both the reason for doing the training activity and the training method deployed by ACTRAV ITCILO and we look forward to continuing our efforts in supp

Social protection is a human right and is a key instrument for sound governance of complex situations, enabling nations to building back better and stronger.

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